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November 16, 2018

Institutionalising 12 years a slave

unacceptable: Deciding that some people are not good enough to learn in english from an early age is to truly confine them to a certain social economic position for life – 12 years a slave.
unacceptable: Deciding that some people are not good enough to learn in english from an early age is to truly confine them to a certain social economic position for life – 12 years a slave.

Wanjiku Nganga

Morning Caroline, I too had that vernacular experience. In my lower primary I was taught in Kikuyu until class four. But luckily I went to a boarding school where I got a language culture shock. The affluent English speakers, the sheng from eastlands and us who couldn't speak even Kiswahili well and the little we did had a mother tongue interference 'shrub' but after a while I picked and mastered English very well n when I speak nowadays nobody believes I stepped a foot in a rural village school. There is a big damage in teaching in vernacular and the so called Professor should know. There is nothing bad and intimidating like when you can't express yourself because you can't communicate. It makes learning very hard. You even begin to think you shouldn’t be in school. It's toxic!

 

Hi Caroline,

I love today's topic, I have a 4 year old daughter and her first language was English. Most people thought I was trying to be snobbish but now they are understanding the importance.

I argued and told people, that Swahili & Kikuyu she will learn from socializing and interacting with friends and family and I was right. She might not speak fluent Swahili & Kikuyu but guess what she fully understands, And in school, they were encouraged to speak in English so guess what happens? She has no problem because English is the language she expresses herself very, very, well in.

Please note, I stay in Buru and my child is in a private school in Buru, so it has nothing to do with which part of Nairobi you live in, it's a decision a parent makes.

I am saddened by introduction of Vernacular in public schools cause it is a total set back. Are they telling us they shall produce all the school material in the different 47 tribes??? Someone somewhere wants this country to remain tribal.

I pray parents will wake up and refuse for the sake of the future or else,..... LORD HELP US.

Have a blessed day,

Valerie.

 

The conversation of the instutionalising of backwardness, of leaving half the population behind as we happily introduce learning in vernacular at the early stages of education fills me with dread and pain. I know the reason not enough of us care to raise our voices against this madness is because much as we acknowledge that it sounds “backward” we are insulated by the fact that “our” children don’t go to “those” schools and after all, it simply means the lead gap between our kids and “those” kids just got wider.

Middle class Kenyans who talk rubbish about vernacular being great, all send their children to private schools and would burn the place down if the head-teacher dared to suggest for two seconds that children be taught in vernacular. When one pays fees that could build a few new classrooms in rural Kenya, they expect their children to be able to hold their own with Prince William, full stop.

Which brings me to the reason I shudder when I watch as we calmly allow someone to institutionalise madness. Incidentally, don’t bore me with that rubbish we throw around called “preserving our culture”. Culture is not language.

Maintaining that some children in this country will be confined to early learning in vernacular while others will have the privilege to start in English is not only backward and unfair but also discriminatory in the worst way. History will judge us harshly and the future may hold agony and animosity for our children.

There were jokes making the rounds as the 2013 KCSE results were being announced, about those twelve years in school amounting to being 12 years a slave.

But allow me to wipe the smirk off your face and challenge you with the fact that deciding that some people are not good enough to learn in English from an early age is to truly confine them to a certain social economic position for life – 12 years a slave.

Slavemasters understood that their social control of the slaves could not be based solely on physical coercion. Knowledge was power, and virtually all slave codes established in the United States set restrictions making it illegal to teach slaves to read or write.

 

The law read:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within the State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State having jurisdiction thereof, and upon conviction, shall, at the discretion of the court, if a white man or woman, be fined not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than two hundred dollars, or imprisoned; and if a free person of color, shall be fined, imprisoned, or whipped, at the discretion of the court, not exceeding thirty nine lashes, nor less than twenty lashes.

Be it further enacted, That if any slave shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any other slave to read or write, the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace, and on conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.

Why? You may wonder was it so important to keep this set of people ignorant? Well the argument, which is very true today as it was then, was that – “the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dis-satisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion, to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State”.

We practice this madness everyday. We know how often we hear, “I’m looking for a house girl, lakini si mtu amesoma. I’m looking for a driver, lakini mtu wa form four…. And so on and so forth. We practice our modern form of the right to deny certain members of the population “knowledge” because in so doing we are able to keep a certain people down.

What I find hard to believe is that we would allow anyone in this day and age to institutionalise it. Prof Kaimenyi I would like to go on record saying this, the emancipation of this nation has happened once and it will happen again. Not even your new blue-print to regulate tribalism and dis-empower a people can stand in the way of a hunger to progress.

But there is also a generation of people who will curse you for deciding their fate by this backward idea. You see sir, history was not a page in a book, but something held in memory and in blood.

You are creating memories for a people based on a discriminatory introduction to learning and the acquisition of knowledge. 50 years ago, great men from this nation sort education in English no less, at all costs and at great cost. From Makerere to London and beyond and they spoke it as well as the Englishman. Thus brought on the first liberation of this nation. Maintaining that some children in this country will be confined to early learning in vernacular while others will have the privilege to start in English is not only backward and unfair but also discriminatory in the worst way. History will judge us harshly and the future may hold agony and animosity for our children.

Please remember no matter how humble the beginnings for men like Tom Mboya, he didn’t just acquire the education, he even started the airlifts. Those men didn’t go through that struggle so you can relegate the children of this nation and a generation to an education that makes them 12 Years A slave. Mark my words – what you are doing is wrong. Tulitoka huko. Tumetoka mbali. Our march is onward and forward and you don’t seem to have received that memo. Shame.

 

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